Monday, August 3, 2020

CMBA Priofile: Rudy Vitkauskas






CMBA profiles one member every month. This month's interview is with  Rudy Vitkauskas whose blogs about movies at   Rudolph Vitkaukas. You will also find plenty of posts on Old Time Radio programs and more.



How did you become interested in film and silent film in particular?

I BELIEVE LIKE MOST PEOPLE, FROM A FAMILY MEMBER. MY FATHER WATCHED LOTS OF OLD 1950S CLASSICS, I WOULD WALK PAST THE TV SET, CURIOUS ABOUT THE BLACK AND WHITE WORLD I WAS VIEWING. BY THE AGE OF EIGHT I WAS ROUTINELY VIEWING THESE PICTURES, SPENDING HOURS BECOMING MORE AND MORE INTERESTED IN NOT THE PICTURES BUT THE TIME PERIOD ITSELF. AND ONCE I TURNED TEN, THE QUESTIONS TO MY GREAT-GRANDMOTHER WHO WAS BORN IN 1926 NEVER STOPPED, I WANTED A FIRST-HAND RECOLLECTION OF SOMEONE WHO SAW THESE FILMS WHEN THEY FIRST PREMIERED, WHO WORE THE HAIRSTYLES AND DROVE IN THE CARS THAT I SAW IN THE BOGART PICTURES.
SILENT FILM WAS A SELF-DISCOVERY. NO ONE IN MY FAMILY WATCHED THEM. I BECAME INTERESTED IN THE SILENT PERIOD AFTER DISCOVERING THAT LOTS OF ACTORS AND ACTRESSES IN TALKING PICTURES HAD ONCE BEEN IN SILENTS. I KNEW OF CHAPLIN OF COURSE, BUT IT WASN'T UNTIL DOING MY OWN RESEARCH AROUND FOURTEEN THAT I STARTED TO DISCOVER A WHOLE NEW WORLD OF FILMS. THEY ALSO HELD THE SAME MAGIC AS THE FILMS FROM the 30S, 40S, AND 50S, BUT WITH AN ADDED TOUCH THAT DREW ME IN, I SUSPECT IT'S THE CREATIVITY AND KNOWING THAT THIS WAS THE START OF IT ALL.

I noticed you have a section on your website dedicated to John Gilbert. What is it about John Gilbert that attracted you?

AH, JOHN GILBERT. I DISCOVERED GILBERT DURING SOME RESEARCH ABOUT GARBO SOME YEARS AGO. I HAD READ HIS NAME AT THIS POINT A DOZEN OR SO TIMES, THOUGH NEVER THOUGHT MUCH OF IT. IT WASN'T UNTIL I HAD WATCHED QUEEN CHRISTINA, THAT I STARTED TO LOOK MORE INTO HIS ROLES. AFTER I WATCHED HIM IN THE 1924 SILENT HE WHO GETS SLAPPED I BEGAN TO DIG EVEN DEEPER. I ALSO WAS INTERESTED IN THE IDEA OF HIM BEING THE RIVAL OF RUDOLPH VALENTINO, WHO I HAD ALREADY SPENT MONTHS RESEARCHING AT THAT POINT.
THOGH I CANNOT REALLY TELL YOU HOW I CHOOSE A PERSON TO DEDICATE MORE TIME TO, IT'S AN ODD INTUITION I SUPPOSE, THE SAME HAPPENED WITH HUMPHREY BOGART, JAMES CAGNEY, AND BUSTER KEATON. THOUGH I CAN SAY THAT ALL OF THESE ACTORS HAVE SOMETHING IN COMMON, THEY ALL BROUGHT SOMETHING NEW TO THE ART OF FILM, NO MATTER IF THAT BE WITH ACTING, DIRECTING, OR THE START OF A NEW FILM PERSONA. AND I AM SURE THAT THERE WILL BE MORE IN THE FUTURE.
ONE MORE POINT ABOUT GILBERT THOUGH. I WAS DETERMINED TO DEBUNK THAT OF WHICH HE HAS BECOME, THE POSTER BOY OF THE FORGOTTEN STAR, WITH A SWIFT OVERNIGHT FALL AT THE HANDS OF THE TALKING PICTURES.
RUBBISH IF YOU ASK ME.

Chaplin, Keaton or Lloyd? Why?

KEATON. THOUGH ALL OF THEM ARE ABSOLUTE GENIUSES.
I PICK KEATON BECAUSE I WAS DRAWN TO HIM FROM AN HISTORIAN POINT OF VIEW MORE THAN THE OTHERS. PLUS, I ADORE HIS PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT WISE OVER THE OTHERS, BUT ONLY SLIGHTLY, ONE CAN SIMPLY NOT HAVE A BAD TIME WATCHING CHAPLIN OR LLYOD. I DO ALSO ADORE KEATON'S PERSONA MORE, THE DEADPAN STYLE OF COMEDY AND THE PORK PIE HAT ALWAYS STAYED WITH ME MORE THAN CHAPLIN'S MUSHTASCHE OR LLOYDS GLASSES.
PLUS TWO OF HIS FILMS ARE IN MY TOP TEN, SHERLOCK JR,. AND THE GENERAL, THE TECHNIQUES IN THESE PICTURES OUTSTAND ANYTHING MADE TODAY. PLUS, I AM STILL AMAZED THAT HE MADE SUCH A LIVELY, COMIC PICTURE ABOUT THE CIVIL WAR.

Why should people care about silent film?

A SIMPLE REASON. HISTORY AND ENTERTAINMENT. FROM A HISTORICAL POINT OF VIEW IT IS INTERESTING, ESPECIALLY FOR AMERICA WHO SPENDS BILLIONS ON ENTERTAINMENT A YEAR, TO LOOK BACK AND SEE WHERE IT ALL BEGAN.
ENTERTAINMENT WISE, I THINK THESE FILMS HAVE BEEN PROJECTED FOR LOTS OF PEOPLE TO BE BORING AND OR OUTDATED. WHILE OF COURSE SOCIETY CHANGES AND SO DOES OUR ENTERTAINMENT, LOTS OF SILENT FILMS ARE JOYS TO WATCH.
PLUS, THESE FILMS HAVE BECOME ARTIFACTS OF HISTORY. THE JAZZ AGE, THE GREAT DEPRESSION, WORLD WAR II. THEY SHOW HOW WE CAME TOGETHER, WHAT KEPT US FIGHTING, OR HOW WE SIMPLY RELAXED AND ESCAPED FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD, EVEN JUST FOR A FEW HOURS A WEEK.
ALL OF THESE REASONS ARE WHY WE NEED TO KEEP SEARCHING FOR LOST FILMS AND RESTORING THE ONES WE HAVE, AS WELL AS MAKING THEM MORE ACCESSIBLE FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS TO ENJOY.

Name three films Silent Films you would recommend to the uninitiated.

SHERLOCK JR,. 1924 - A CLASSIC AND INNOVATIVE PICTURE AS WELL.
METROPOLIS 1927 - ONE OF MY ALL TIME FAVORITES. A MARVEL OF THE ART OF FILM.
SAFETY LAST! 1923 - A WONDERFULLY TIMED COMEDY.
ALL THESE THREE ARE RECOMMEND OFTEN, BUT FOR GOOD REASON. I ALSO BELIEVE ONE SHOULD START WITH "CLASSICS" WHEN STARTING TO WATCH ANY DECADE OF FILM. IT'S EASIER TO GET AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE TIME AND THE KIND OF PICTURES THAT WERE MADE.

I don’t want readers to get the impression your website is strictly for silent film lovers. I see plenty of posts on the early days of sound. Can you tell us what genres you favor? 

EVEN THOUGH I DO WRITE ALOT ABOUT SILENT FILMS, MY ALL TIME FAVORITE GENRE OF PICTURES ARE THE GANGSTER AND NOIR PICTURES OF THE 1930S AND 1940S. THE 1930S IS ACTUALLY MY FAVORITE DECADE FOR FILM, EVEN AFTER THE CODE WAS ENFORCED.
THE CAGNEY AND BOGART PICTURES OF COURSE. LIKE THAT OF THE MALTESE FALCON, 1941 - THE ROARING TWENTIES, 1939 - SCARFACE, 1932.
OTHER FILMS FROM THE "SOPHISTICATED 30S" AS WELL. LIKE THAT OF ERNST LUBITSCH PICTURES: TROUBLE IN PARADISE, 1931, AND DESIGN FOR LIVING, 1933 ARE THE MOST WICKED AND GENTEMANLY ELEGANT FILMS I HAVE EVER SEEN.
REALLY TO MANY TO COUNT WHEN IT COMES TO THE 1930S.

You have a section on Old Radio programs. How did you get interested in it?

WHEN WATCHING OLD FILMS AS A CHILD I REMEMBER HEARING THE OLD RADIO ANNOUNCER VOICE, WHICH I ALWAYS LOVED AND STILL WISHED WE USED.
I WAS ALWAYS READING ABOUT STARS DOING RADIO PROGRAMS OR READING ABOUT WEEKLY RADIO SHOWS. BUT IT NEVER DAWNED ON ME UNTIL I WAS ABOUT SIXTEEN THAT YOU COULD STILL LISTEN TO THEM. AFTER STUMBLING UPON OLD RADIO WEBSITES, THAT INTEREST TOOK OFF, I NOW LISTEN TO OLD RADIO PROGRAMS ON A DAILY BASES, AND WHERE OTHERS PUT ON PODCASTS, I HAVE THESE 60+ YEAR OLD RADIO SHOWS TO KEEP ME COMPANY. ANYTHING FROM WEEKLY COMEDY SHOWS OR HOUR-LONG NOIR ADAPTATIONS WITH BOGART AND LAUREN BACALL. 

Do you have an interest in any other arts that you can share?

YES, PAINTINGS AND STATUES.
I LOVE STUDYING ART FROM ALL DIFFERENT TIME PERIODS.
AND I AM NOT SURE IF ARCHITECTURE COUNTS AS AN ART, I THINK IT DOES, BUT I HAVE A REAL KEEN INTEREST ON OLD BUILDINGS AND HOMES. VICTORIAN PROPERTIES TO THE ALL FAVORITE ART DECO.